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Audit opening meeting

Audit opening meeting – the crucial first step

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Audit opening meeting
Published: 6 Nov 2023

Making certain the opening meeting of an audit goes well is vital to ensure the success of the process, says Mark Walsh CQP MCQI

There are several aspects to an audit, but for me, the single most important is the opening meeting. Why? Well, it sets the tone for the hours and days to come; you will either engage or lose the auditee at this stage and, if it’s the latter, it’s going to be a painful (metaphorically speaking, of course) experience for all.

The opening meeting is where certain, let’s say, administrative topics are discussed, confirmed and agreed by all parties. I’ve provided a few examples below to give a flavour, and you can find a more comprehensive list in ISO 19011:2018 Guidelines for auditing management systems, Cl 6.4.3.

  • Introduction of the audit team and the auditees
  • Confirm the audit criteria and scope
  • Assure confidentiality
  • Explain the reporting process of findings and non-conformities.

There are a few things that I also like to emphasise to the auditee.

  • The audit is to look for compliance and add value, not to keep digging in the search for nonconformity (NC).
  • There are NO ‘targets’ for the number of NCs, findings or opportunities for improvement (OFIs) to be raised.
  • The audit is a two-way process, and the auditees are free to ask questions at any point.

"The opening meeting can make or break an audit and it is important that the auditor approaches it with a positive attitude."

Mark Walsh CQP MCQI, Director, Q-Sys Solutions

Personal conduct and considerations

Although it is not covered under ISO 19011, how you conduct yourself during the opening meeting is just as important as ensuring the administrative points are covered. I’ve found that being upbeat, smiling and making regular eye contact goes a long way to ensuring there will be positive engagement from the auditees during the process.

Auditors should regularly remind themselves that, for some, this will be their first experience of an audit and they will, by nature, be nervous and apprehensive. A skilled, empathetic, auditor will quickly recognise these signs and, I believe, it is their duty to put anyone who is displaying such feelings at ease.

Similarly, auditors should consider the previous audit experience of the auditee. If they had a difficult time they will, in all probability, already be in a somewhat defensive mood and, as I have found, they will convey this at some stage.

This is where your personal soft skills will be tested. It is a critical moment to ensure you get the engagement required to make the audit a success. My approach is to just listen, allow the auditee to talk about their previous experience – and then act on what I’ve heard.

While a negative experience isn’t the outcome anyone wishes for, it does present an opportunity for an auditor to right the record and leave the auditee with a new, pleasant, encounter.

External observers

Quite often, when I have been auditing for a business for the first time (for example, a potential supplier as part of a pre-qualification process), the client will attend as an observer. If logistics permit, they will be on site, but usually it is via remote means.

More often than not, they log off after the opening meeting because, based on the structure and performance of it, they have confidence that the audit will be performed in a professional manner.


The opening meeting can make or break an audit and it is important that the auditor approaches it with a positive attitude. How we present ourselves will be reflected in how the review proceeds. If you’re having a bad day (the traffic was terrible or your train was delayed, putting you behind schedule, for example) try to leave it at the door – it’s not the fault of the auditee.

Read more from Mark Walsh

Mark Walsh CQP MCQI takes a closer look at what issues auditors should be aware of when they become the auditee.

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